Drama has mutated into a potential Premier League-chasing promotion disaster for Leeds United

What has been described as a “blip” by fans and pundits and a “bad moment” by Leeds United head coach, Marcelo Bielsa, is looking more like a protracted period of bad form that threatens to derail the club’s automatic promotion ambitions in 2020.

By Steve Heptinstall
Sunday, 9th February 2020, 5:51 pm
Leeds United's Kiko Casilla saves from Forest's Lewis Grabban.
PIC: Jonathan Gawthorp/JPIMedia
Leeds United's Kiko Casilla saves from Forest's Lewis Grabban. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorp/JPIMedia

That’s pretty much the collective view of the Yorkshire Evening Post jury. Here’s what they had to say about Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in front of the Sky tv cameras.

David Watkins

Same old, same old! A drama has mutated into a disaster now and there is no real thought as to how we can shake ourselves out of this run.

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Leeds United fans have acknowledged Mateusz Klich's performance at Nottingham Forest. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia

Seventy per cent of the ball against one of the best sides in the division ought to have yielded at least a point and yet here we are again with nothing.

The stats are now dire: not scored in four of the last five, no clean sheet in 10 straight league games and we’ve conceded first in every one of our seven games so far in 2020.

Where do we go from here?

For me, we look stale, worn down by the frustration of having so much ball but seeing no reward and by suffering the regular sucker punch of a soft goal.

Luke Ayling. PIC: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia

Marcelo Bielsa has no plan B by his own admission and so all we can do now is try some new faces.

We were led to believe we wouldn’t be seeing Big Kev yet awhile but he made his debut at Nottingham Forest and he is one of the few dice we have left to throw.

Come on Leeds, let’s throw it and see what happens.

Man of the match: Really can’t think of one.

Matthew Evans

There’s not much more that can be said about the loss to Forest that hasn’t already been said in the mass outpouring of rage/grief/panic (delete as appropriate) that appeared online in the wake of the result.

It was one of the poorest performances we’ve put in under Marcelo Bielsa. Normally you can say that we were by far the better side and missed a hatful of chances but we made very heavy weather of a scrappy game and didn’t do nearly enough to trouble Nottingham Forest who enjoyed their night at the City Ground more than I can ever remember before.

Kiko Casilla is culpable for letting in the first goal at his near post and, if that’s the last time we see Ben White as a midfielder, then I’m sure we’ll all be delighted. Helder Costa and Patrick Bamford looked ineffectual, Stuart Dallas seemed tired, Jack Harrison frustrated and Gjanni Alioski ‘brainless’.

We’re still second but the question is for how much longer given we have the looming prospect of Griffin Park on Tuesday night, a ground where we’ve not won since the 1950s.

The Revie-era motto ‘Keep Fighting’ is relevant now but perhaps ‘Start Fighting’ is more applicable.

Man of the match: Mateusz Klich.

Andy Rhodes

What do you say after that? This is much more than a blip now and it threatens to derail Leed United’s Championship promotion push.

There’s no sugarcoating it; the Whites are in trouble after that result.

The composure and the confidence have gone, just as the chasing pack have found theirs. The wingers were ineffective and Patrick Bamford found himself isolated.

Mateusz Klich did his best to drive the team forward but Forest were disciplined and held strong.

Goalkeeper Illan Meslier must be wondering what he needs to do to get a game, particularly after another Kiki Casilla howler. Time will tell if he has Marcelo Bielsa’s faith. Many will say that we’re still in second and well in with a chance of automatic promotion.

But form is against us.

The team needs to regain its swagger quickly or they’ll become the chasing pack they’re currently trying to avoid.

If Leeds play like that on Tuesday Brentford will teach them a lesson.

Man of the match: Mateusz Klich.

Mike Gill

Another tough game and another defeat.

Ben White looked like a fish out of water in the holding role. Thank goodness Kalvin Phillips is now available again. United dominated possession but their progress rarely reached the final quarter. Although he was left exposed when Ameobi burst into the box, Kiko Casilla allowed the Forest man to beat him at the near post.

The Spaniard then caught the ball well only to throw it straight to Ben Watson. Luckily the Forest skipper was off target.

Robert’s, then Shackleton and Augustin were introduced in the second half to little effect.

Casilla denied Grabban as the Forest striker chose to aim the ball at the keeper’s legs rather than the gaping net to his right. Liam Cooper was unlucky when his headed effort from a corner was well saved by Samba who fisted the ball upwards twice before it ran to safety.

When it no longer mattered, Jack Harrison failed to clear a counter attack leaving Lolley the simple task of putting Walker through to fire into an empty net.

Man of the match: Luke Ayling.

Jacob Starr

A lacklustre performance highlights the need for some kind of change for the run-in.

From 11 points clear, the Whites now find themselves level on points with Fulham, one ahead of Saturday’s victors Forest, and two ahead of Brentford who we face on Tuesday.

We never looked like scoring, and Nottingham Forest always seemed relatively comfortable after Sammy Ameobi scored at Kiko Casilla’s near post in the first half. Liam Cooper had our only genuine chance but saw his header saved brilliantly by Samba in the Forest goal.

Something really needs to change though. Jean-Kevin Augustin came on but didn’t really have the opportunity to make the desirable impact.

It was yet another must-win game and yet again we fell short, which makes the trip to Brentford on Tuesday ever more important.

Performances have been good in recent weeks despite not getting the results, but Forest made it difficult for us to play to our usual standard and plenty of players went missing.

Fans are calling for change in some shape or form, so it will be interesting to see whether Marcelo Bielsa agrees and makes a change or two in the coming weeks.

Man of the match: Mateusz Klich.

Keith Ingham

Leeds fell to another defeat, 2-0 at Nottingham Forest – this time by far it was the worst we’ve played in a while.

The gap to third has gone (only goal difference keeps Leeds second) as Fulham beat Blackburn to go level on points. Brentford, who Leeds play on Tuesday are only two points behind and will go above Leeds if they beat them. Strange mentioning the word ‘United’ because nothing about this team at the moment seems that.

They may ‘talk the talk’ in interviews but they looked like strangers in a pathetic second half where the only decent chance fell to captain Liam Cooper, and Forest keeper Samba denied him with a splendid one-handed save. It’s hard to see where Leeds go from this defeat; they looked out of sorts and out of ideas and their hopes of a automatic promotion place diminish on a weekly basis.

Another trip to London on Tuesday to face a Brentford side that are on top form and will be huge favourites to beat Leeds and finally move them into the play-off places. I cannot see anything but a win for them.

Marcelo Bielsa kept faith with the team that was defeated by Wigan at Elland Road for the trip to Nottingham. The only changes were on the bench with ‘Big Kev’ Augustin given a place on it.

Despite having a lion’s share of possession, like most games, when it came to the final ball their moves collapsed.

And, when they actually got a ball behind the Forest defence, it went to Bamford who, for reasons known only to himself headed the ball sideways instead of at goal.

It sums up the way the striker (and I use that word very loosely) is playing.

Forest got a goal after the half-hour mark when Ameobi won the ball in midfield and strode through to shoot by Casilla’s near post.

The Spaniard, who hasn’t covered himself in glory recently, made a feeble attempt to save the ball but it went past his arm/leg combination into the net.

In an attempt to rescue the game, Bielsa brought on Tyler Roberts and Augustin who replaced the disappointing Pablo Hernandez and Gjanni Alioski ,who was taken off before being sent off.

The left-back had been booked and was walking a tightrope before he was subbed for his own good.

Apart from a shot that Klich sent across the six-yard box, that nobody in sky blue thought it might be an idea to stretch a leg at, and Cooper’s header from a corner, that was basically it for Leeds in a really poor second period.

Forest wrapped up the points with a breakaway goal in injury time when Jack Harrison, the only Leeds man left in defence, fell over while trying to clear the ball and that gave Lolley a clear run at goal.

He duly supplied a pass for Walker to get their second.

Man of the match: The last time I felt so despondent was after the Wigan(last season) and Derby County playoff game. It really feels like Leeds are falling apart again!